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Promoting Professional Growth: A Developmental and Motivational Approach to Teachers’ Professional Learning Open Access


Other title
teacher motivation
teacher self-efficacy
teacher professional learning
teacher engagement
teacher career stages
teacher education
professional commitment
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Durksen, Tracy L.
Supervisor and department
Robert Klassen (Educational Psychology)
Lia Daniels (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Bonnie Stelmach (Educational Policy Studies)
Christina Rinaldi (Educational Psychology)
George Buck (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Psychological Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Teachers, with an inherent commitment to life-long learning, sow the seeds for their students to become life-long learners. Using motivational theories, I conducted a three-study dissertation that provides a developmental description of the connections between teachers’ efficacy beliefs, engagement, and professional learning across two major professional life phases: pre-service teachers and practicing teachers. The overarching research question that guided my dissertation was: What patterns exist within and across professional life phases, in relation to the influences of efficacy and engagement on teachers’ professional learning? I argue that university coursework during initial teacher education is the first and foundational professional learning experience for teachers. To enhance understanding of motivation and emerging beliefs about professional learning, I examined 153 second-year education students’ questionnaire responses in Study 1 to answer the question: How do personal characteristics, teachers’ self-efficacy, and current course engagement influence the professional learning beliefs of students at the beginning of their teacher education program? Participants responded to questionnaire items on professional learning, career choice satisfaction, teachers’ self-efficacy, and engagement as a teacher education student. Program level and motivation to pursue an education degree contributed to a hypothesized structural equation model for motivation and professional learning. Study 1 concludes with implications for teacher educators. The final practicum placement is considered the most intensive professional learning experience for pre-service teachers. Therefore, Study 2 was set in the context of pre-service teachers’ final practicum placements and aimed to answer the research question: How does a 9-week professional learning experience influence pre-service teachers’ motivation, and in particular, commitment and engagement to the profession? Quantitative analyses of weekly questionnaire data collected from 150 participants during a final 9-week practicum revealed significant and non-linear patterns for commitment and engagement, while a multiple-case qualitative design with two contrasting cases highlighted the variability of pre-service teachers’ experiences in the practicum. Results revealed themes akin to three basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) and underscored the critical influence of a mentor teacher on a pre-service teachers’ professional commitment and engagement. Study 2 concludes with practical implications for educational psychologists. Practicing teachers’ professional learning beliefs and associated experiences not only impact their practice and influence their students but also play a key role in the professional lives of their colleagues. For Study 3, data were collected from 296 practicing teachers in order to answer the research question: How do practicing teachers’ self- and collective efficacy beliefs and teacher engagement influence reasons and preferences for professional learning? Results include a model of practicing teachers’ self-reported efficacy beliefs and teacher engagement in relation to professional learning. Teaching level and professional life phase predicted efficacy beliefs with teachers revealing collaboration as the most influential type of professional learning on efficacy beliefs. Conclusions highlight the role of collaboration in professional learning and outline practical implications and future research. Taken together, the three studies provide a descriptive and developmental (cohort-based) perspective of motivation and professional learning across two general professional life phases. In the concluding chapter, I synthesize the three studies by providing comparative results. For example, Chapter Five includes a comparison of the importance ratings provided by teacher education students (Study 1) and practicing teachers (Study 3) on reasons for professional learning. An integrative and theoretical model for teachers’ motivation and professional learning is presented, along with overall recommendations for professional learning practices and future research.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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